The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO) came up with a very good idea: to organise a sake week in London from February 22 to March 3. During that time a good number of Japanese and some other restaurants are offering a free glass of sake with some of their dishes. You can find the full list of restaurants here. Tengu Sake also made an excellent map of all participating restaurants with the information on what dishes and sake they offer.
Being a diligent and inquisitive sake blogger I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see the promotion in action and have a glass or two of sake for free. My wife and I were in Mayfair on Friday evening and decided to go somewhere for dinner. So I pulled the excellent map from Tengu Sake on my phone and looked at the options. There were a few places around but they all were quite pricey given the location.
So we chose Chisou, a modern Japanese izakaya and sushi bar in Mayfair. They have two restaurants in London. One used to be near Oxford Circus station and moved to Woodstock Sreet and another is in Knightsbridge. I’ve been at both before but wanted to check out the new location. Also, it was a more affordable option compared to Nobu or Ginza Onodera.
I would not call Chisou an izakaya more like an izakaya-style restaurant. It’s more expensive than your ordinary izakaya in London, the range of dishes is smaller and it feels more refined. It lacks a certain roughness and low-keyness of a proper izakaya. I still like the restaurant. The food is good and the ambience is pleasant. There were a few Japanese customers there so it gives it a certain stamp of approval if you ask me.
Chisou had the best selection of sake pairings among other restaurants participating in the London Sake Week: four dishes with four different sake. The waitress told us straight away about the promotion, which was very nice. Each table had a small menu of all four pairings. We decided to go for Chisou signature salad with Sohomare Karakuchi and Rock Shrimp Tempura with Tedorigawa Kinka, which I have recently tried at the Sake Symposium in SOAS and became a big fan. We also ordered a
Miso soups came with a small appetiser or marinaded beef and fish as far as I could see it. I had a ordinary miso soup with tofu, while my wife went for Nameko Miso Soup with mushrooms. Both were good, though the dashi stock tasted a bit too strong for me.
The signature Chisou salad, which is called Horenso Salad on the London Sake Week menu was the best dish. It consisted of spicy prawns on spinach leaves with yuzu dressing. It was very tasty, spicy but not too much with very nice yuzu flavour. The paring was also very good: junmai off-dry Sohomare Karakuchi sake complemented the spiciness and umami of the prawns perfectly. The only complaint was that the salad is a bit small for the price of £10.80. However, given the free sake glass, it was a good value for money.
The last item we ordered was Rock Shrimp Tempura which came with spicy yuzu sauce and accompanied by my favourite Tedorigawa Kinka sake. The tempura itself was good but reminded me a bit of deep-fried scampi you sometimes have at a pub. However, the yuzu sauce made it special and tasty.
Tedorigawa Arabashiri Kinka Daiginjo Nama sake was great as usual. Arabashiri means that moromi (fermented sake mash) wasn’t pressed after the end of the fermentation process but left in bags to let the sake run on its own. The nama part of the name refers to being non-pasteurised. Kinka was mellow and on a sweet side with rich fruity notes of green apples and lemon meringue. The pairing with tempura was also quite good. Though I would probably prefer a bit dryer and lighter sake to combat oiliness of the tempura.
It was a great experience. The dinner, while a bit light, was a good value for money. We paid just over £65 for two of us and had miso soup, salad to share and two main courses plus two glasses of excellent sake and a bottle of Kirin Ichiban beer. The food was tasty and the signature salad was very delicious.
The London Sake Week is a great idea and definitely prompted a lot of people who would normally order wine or beer with their food to try sake instead. However, it could be a bit better organised. Oliver from Tengu Sake did a great job by making the map, which definitely helped me to choose where to go. But this map should be on the main JFOODO’s Food and Sake website. It would be nice to see more affordable places participating in the event.
Most of the restaurants were Japanese. However, there were a few non-Japanese places such as Chinese XU, a seafood restaurant Oystermen and a cheese specialist, La Fromagerie. Hopefully, more non-Japanese restaurants will take part in the event to encourage people to try sake with other cuisines.
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